Anyone who has spent any time in Blogland knows that Kristie(j) adores Derek Craven, the hero from Dreaming of You. She loves that he’s an unconventional hero, she loves..well, I don’t know what else she loves. Because I don’t understand his appeal. I never have. Not only did I not find him appealing in the least, but I also didn’t like his heroine, or their story. DoY is one of the few Lisa Kleypas books I’ve never re-read, never had the desire to re-read. I remember finishing that book for the first time and being furious that Derek cheated on Sara with a prostitute who looked like her, and that Sara acted so TSTL throughout the book.
The thing about Derek is this: We knew he wasn’t the bastard be pretended to be. Despite his gruff exterior, we knew he’d eventually do right by Sara. We saw flashes of good in him – the way he protected Sara and followed her around, the way he took care of Lily and did his best to make sure she was taken care of. He was like a lost little boy waiting for someone to come along and love him. And that’s fine for some people, but it didn’t work for me. Especially because he was shown to be such a callous ass. He wasn’t one. Ever. He was just a man who didn’t think he was good enough.
Naturally others, like Kristie, didn’t see it that way. But I did.
Sebastian St. Vincent, the hero of Devil in Winter, totally captured me. Right from the beginning I was taken with him. Mostly because he was so much more…real. He didn’t change an ounce from the way he was in IHOA. He was an ass of massive proportions, and happy to be that way.
Sebastian stared at her with patent mockery. “If I say no, Miss Jenner, how would you know if I were lying or not? No. I would not have raped her. Is that the answer you want? Believe it, then, if it makes you feel safer. Now as for my question…”
“I will sl-sleep with you once,” she said, “to make the marriage legal. Never again after that.”
“Lovely,” he murmured. “I rarely like to bed a woman more than once. A crashing bore, after the novelty is gone. Besides, I would never be so bourgeois as to lust after my own wife. It implies that one hasn’t the means to keep a mistress. Of course, there is the issue of providing me with an heir – but as long as you’re discreet, I don’t expect I’ll give a damn whose child it is.”
The bottom line for Sebastian was always himself – everything he did he did for himself. I never once thought, “oh, he’s just pretending to be a rake and a bastard, he’s really just a big marshmallow inside”, because he wasn’t pretending, and he wasn’t a marshmallow. He lived by his own code of morals – very thin ones, but his nonetheless.
Unfortunately, Evie had been conditioned by too many encounters with Uncle Peregrine to discern between angry gestures and the beginnings of a physical attack. She flinched instinctively, her own arms flying up to shield her head. When the expected pain of a blow did not come, she let out a breath and tentatively lowered her arms to find Sebastian staring at her with blank astonishment.
Then his face went dark.
“Evie,” he said, his voice containing a bladelike ferocity that frightened her. “Did you think I was about to…Christ. Someone hit you. Someone hit you in the past—who the hell was it?” He reached for her suddenly—too suddenly—and she stumbled backward, coming up hard against the wall. Sebastian went very still. “Goddamn,” he whispered. Appearing to struggle with some powerful emotion, he stared at her intently. After a long moment, he spoke softly. “I would never strike a woman. I would never harm you. You know that, don’t you?”
We didn’t know with Sebastian if he could be everything Evie needed. We didn’t know if he’d ever be able to change for her, to become something he, at his core, just wasn’t. That, my friends, is the mark of a good anti-hero. And what an anti-hero he was.
I’ll take a good anti-hero, one who truly is bad but is redeemed, over a marshmallow pretending to be an ass any day.
And that’s the thing with Sebastian, he was redeemed. By Evie and her love. She was able to show him that there was more to life than idle pursuits and skirt-chasing. He was able to give and receive love and caring, because Evie showed him how. He wasn’t a scared little boy inside, he was a man who didn’t know love – until Evie.
Evie sent him a disbelieving glance. “F-furthermore, I will not be part of a stable of women whom you visit at random.”
Suddenly Sebastian was quiet, looking away from her. Evie waited, nearly choking on her impatience as she waited for him to admit that she was right. She waited until his gaze slowly lifted, and his winter-blue eyes stared into hers.
“All right,” Sebastian said huskily. “I agree to your terms. I’ll be…monogamous.” He seemed to have a bit of difficulty with the last word, as if he were trying to speak a foreign language.
“I don’t believe you.”
“Good God, Evie! Do you know how many women have tried to obtain such a promise from me? And now, the first time I’m willing to take a stab at fidelity, you throw it back in my face. I admit that I’ve had a prolific history with women—”
“Promiscuous,” Evie corrected.
He gave an impatient snort. “Promiscuous, debauched—whatever you want to call it. I’ve had a hell of a good time, and I’ll be damned if I say I’m sorry for it. I’ve never bedded an unwilling woman. Nor, to my knowledge, did I leave anyone unsatisfied.”
“That’s not the point.” A frown creased her forehead. “I don’t blame you for your past…or, at least…I’m not trying to punish you for it.” Ignoring his skeptical snort, she continued, “But it doesn’t make you an especially good candidate for fidelity, does it?”
His tone was surly as he replied. “What do you want of me? An apology for being a man? A vow of celibacy until you’ve decided that I’m worthy of your favors?”
They say reformed rakes make the best husbands; I have no idea if that’s true, but I know this reformed rake was way better to read about than a sad little boy.
You Craven lovers can say what you want about Sebastian, but I find him to be utterly irresistible.